I always wondered rather "What is a civilized society?"
It seems to me that a civilized society requires respect for minorities (in particular, respect for the ultimate minority - an individual), a government that somehow follows the wishes of most ordinary people and in that sense, a State that allows for the peaceful change of government.
Democracy may be a popular state, or even majority rule, but no civilized state is a tyranny of the majority. The US constitution wisely includes amendments restricting the power of a popular government - and Trudeau smartly included a Charter of Rights in our own constitution.
So anyway, I read this in the Toronto Star:
We profess fidelity to democracy, especially in the Arab world. But our commitment seems to come with the caveat that the will of the people is acceptable only if it confirms our prejudices. If not — as in Egyptians’ choice of the Muslim Brotherhood for both parliament and the presidency — some of our leaders, thinkers and media eminences get antsy and irrational.
When the West speaks up, it does so mostly on behalf of selected constituencies — non-Muslim minorities, in particular. When it advocates for the rights of women, it does so for certain types of women — secular, pro-western, often anti-Islamic. It did not go to bat for the women belonging to the Brotherhood who suffered for long periods under Mubarak.
I think Siddiqui is confused between "democracy" and "civilized society". Democracy presumably means majority rule, 50% plus one. Civilized society means that, but more. A simple majority - so-called democracy - could mean the tyranny of the majority.
If a majority of Egyptians happen to be Islamists (or if a majority of Ontarians happen to be WASPs), it may be democratic for them to impose their will on society. But it wouldn't be civilized.
The Ontario government rightly (now) respects the Catholic and French-speaking minority. Egypt, to be civilized, should do the same with its non-Muslim minority.
I happen to think that a critical feature of civilized society is the peaceful transfer of State power between governments/people of opposing views. Arguably, the most significant event in political history was when John Adams stood beside Thomas Jefferson in 1802.
So, Egypt and others in the Arab world have become partly civilized: their governments change with (less) violent revolution, and at least there is the pretense of civility. Saddam Hussein was at least judged, and then hanged. Mubarak was also judged before receiving a sentence. (We don't know yet what will happen with Assad Jnr.)
[In the grand scheme of things, I guess, Egypt and Iraq are comparable to England at the time of Henri VIII and Anne Boleyn.]
With all that said, I admire popular will. Like Haroon Siddiqui, I applaud and admire the Arab Spring just as I admired the guy in Beijing who stood before the tank. I guess that I like Gary Cooper.
Edited by August1991, 08 July 2012 - 02:32 PM.